2010-12-24 / Top Stories

Beach Channel High School Public Hearing Set For January 13

DOE Seeks To Phase Out, Close School
By Howard Schwach

For the second year in a row, the Department of Education will hold a public hearing at Rockaway’s Beach Channel High School with the purpose of phasing it out and closing it down.

That meeting will be held at the high school at 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 13.

“The proposal is to phase out and eventually close Beach Channel based on its poor performance and the DOE’s assessment that the school lacks the capacity to turn around quickly to better support student needs,” a DOE spokesperson says. “If the proposal is approved, Beach Channel would be phased out gradually over the next several years. It would no longer admit ninth grade students at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. Current students would be supported as they progress towards graduation while remaining at Beach Channel. In cases where students do not complete graduation requirements by the June 2014 closure date, the DOE will help students and families identify alternative programs or schools that met student’s needs so that they may continue their education after Beach Channel completes phasing out.”

In addition, the DOE will place another new school in the Beach Channel Educational Campus building beginning in September of 2011.

That school, designated as 27Q351, will join Beach Channel High School, the Channel View School for Research, the Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability, and a District 75 Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS) in the building.

DOE sources told The Wave that the new school has not yet been named, nor has a theme been chosen. The school will not be a zoned school for Rockaway students, but will take students from all over the city. Queens students, however, will be given priority admission, the DOE says.

The Beach Channel Educational Campus has a capacity of 3,254 students, the DOE says, Last year, it housed 1,947 students. This current school year, there is a total of 1,848 students in the building – 1,094 students at Beach Channel High School, 548 at Channel View, 98 at the special education school and 108 at the Rockaway Park High School.

With a utilization rate of 57 percent, the DOE says, there is plenty of room for the new schools to grow a grade a year.

The announcement came as no shock to students, parents or staff.

They had been aware of the process to phase out and close the local comprehensive high school since December of 2009 when Department of Education spokesperson William Havenann told The Wave, “We went to the school today to announce our proposal to phase out the school. There will be no more incoming freshman classes at the school and it will be closed in three years.”

Of course, that announcement was made prior to a July ruling overturning the entire DOE phase-out program because the DOE had not followed the procedures outlined by the legislature’s school governance act.

Then, in early November, the DOE issued a list of 47 schools that would be phased out and closed over the next few years, including Beach Channel High School.

Despite that, Queens High School Superintendent Juan Mendez told a small crowd at the school last month, “I was not informed that there is a plan in place to close the school.”

That brought groans from the 100 people, mostly school staff and community activists, in the room.

“I am here to listen to parents and staff and to bring back ideas about how to keep the school serving the students of Rockaway,” Mendez added.

Mendez listened to more than a dozen speakers urge him to provide more programs and more resources to the school before giving up and closing it down.

Despite that, the decision to phase out the school and then close it down came late last week, along with the announcement of the public meeting.

The last public meeting was contentious, with parents, alumni and present staff charging that the Department of Education took much-needed resources from the building over the past several years, placing it in a position to fail.

The citywide Panel for Educational Policy, dominated by appointees of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will then meet on February 3 at the Brooklyn Technical High School to officially vote on the demise of the school.

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